Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
This is essentially why I am against increasing the power to the State. A lot of things come packaged nicely (welfare, healthcare, environmentalism, ‘No Child Left Behind,’ etc) and they end up being communicated as moral imperatives. There is a very real danger when governments believe that they decide what’s in the best interest of their citizens, as opposed to the people themselves. (Peter DeFazio talked about this very thing in his reply to my letter about the Fairness Doctrine).
As someone who is philosophically conservative, I believe that for freedom to flourish, is vital for each person to have the power to make decisions about what is best for themselves.
I think this is often why Conservatives are perceived to have a lack of compassion in regard to social programs. For instance, I was listening to a left wing radio show the other day and the host, who was discussing global warming, stated something in the effect of, “You see, Conservatives are always opposed to people coming together to fix a problem (in this case, the problem was global warming).” Close, but the host left out one crucial point:
Conservatives are opposed to governments forcing people to come together to fix a problem. This is because, governments are the only entities that have the power to force citizens to do anything (in America, usually through taxation and regulation). Non-governmental organizations do not, instead relying on a person’s free choice to support that organization.
The ultimate problem is that any time we hand over power and responsibilities to The State, it is nearly impossible to get them back. Not to mention, citizens become less self-reliant, instead counting on the government to make important decisions, or provide for important personal needs.
Back to what Lewis was saying. Whether we elect John McCain or Barack Obama this year, the country is not going to immediately spiral into tyranny. However, some of the ideas that BOTH McCain and Obama are pushing are small steps in this direction. Do not be fooled into feeling guilty when it comes to social issues by the nice (morally imperative) way that they are packaged: “It’s for the children, the elderly, the environment, fill in the blank… (One real world example: Al Gore has stated that the climate problem is not a political issue, it’s a moral issue. Thus, people who disagree, or might question his position aren’t just wrong, they’re immoral. I wrote a whole post about this topic called The Cost of Disagreement.)
The bottom line is whatever the issue, (oil prices, healthcare, environment, jobs, taxes, etc), don’t buy the, “you are morally obligated,” emotional fluff. The important question should be:
Does this idea promote personal liberty – or is it handing more power to The State?
In other words, is it a small step towards, or away from tyranny?
Now, there is a great deal of talk about what should be done about certain problems in society. Those thoughts can be reserved for another time or post. For now though, my opinion is that for most things, the government isn’t the answer.